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Forty Creek Spike Honey Spiced

80 Creek - Part II

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@talexanderReview by @talexander

23rd Nov 2014

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  • Nose
    19
  • Taste
    16
  • Finish
    18
  • Balance
    15
  • Overall
    68

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

So he did it. He caved. He relented. He threw in the towel. John Hall, a fiercely independent whisky maker (or rather, was independent until Campari bought him out, but more on that later) and one that has prided himself on innovation and integrity, has brought to market a spiced whisky. The ingredient list on the label includes Canadian whisky, sugar and natural flavour.

The colour is a deep gold with reddish highlights. Honey, of course, dominates the nose, with banana, mint, vanilla, light caramel, cloves and a hint of rye spice. Fairly straightforward. A drop of water reveals more rye, as usual. Weak but not terrible.

Syrupy in the mouth, with honey but also cloyingly sweet butterscotch, and the faintest hint of some indeterminate spice. Somehow water makes it even more syrupy. Yuck.

The finish is spicier, with even a hint of smoke - and more sticky sweet honey/caramel. Not the worst Frankenwhisky I've had, but damn close. I haven't tried this as a mixer yet so I cannot completely discount it, but I was hoping for better from John Hall, even in the deeply troubled category of spiced whisky. So let's look at the timeline. March 2014: Campari buys Forty Creek, keeps John Hall on as whisky maker, publicly promising that he will have all the freedom and independence that he has always had in crafting his spirit. Six months later, in September, Hall launches two new whiskies: 2014 Evolution (which I just reviewed) and Spike Honey Spiced, the two worst whiskies he has ever made. Do you think that it was John Hall's decision to bring a spiced whisky to market? I seriously doubt it. I sincerely hope this is not a harbinger of the future of this distillery, but given the new ownership, it very well may be.

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7 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

In my book it is a little brave to even taste these whisky liqueurs. When I try one of these sorts of concoctions it is just to see "how low can they go?". Pretty low, actually.

Thanks for the cautionary tale...not that I would have expected anything else from this sort of beverage.

5 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

I had slightly higher hopes given that it is from Forty Creek. But I do try to bravely sample them - they don't cost much and who knows, maybe they'll get one right? Keep in mind these are not whisky "liqueurs" but spiced whiskies. There is a difference (usually in ABV but also in character) and many whisky liqueurs are delicious (Bailey's, Drambuie - I even like Sortilege, a Canadian maple whisky liqueur, which is very different from crap like Crown Royal Maple and its ilk).

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Oh, sure, I can like some of the whisky liqueurs too, Drambuie, Compass Box Orangerie, Southern Comfort. As to stature as whisky, if you put actual honey in it, that makes it a liqueur to me...and no Sortilege for me, thank you.

5 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

I'm with Victor on this one...abv makes no difference...if a whisky has flavouring added to it, it has become a liqueur. It should then be labelled, marketed, and stocked in the appropriate location (with Drambuie, which I am a big fan of) in a liquor store. I also enjoy Bailey's, but having now sampled the Forty Creek equivalent, I think I'll be adding a bottle of Forty Creek Cream when I next get the chance.

5 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

One can have their opinions on what constitutes a "whisky" or a "liqueur" but there are actual definitions and industry norms. In Canada, you can add a small percentage of anything to a whisky and it is still a whisky. You may have the opinion that Forty Creek Spiked Honey is a liqueur, but it isn't, and it doesn't taste like a liqueur. The definitions can be confusing but the reality is (not opinion, but reality) that products like Forty Creek Spiked Honey and Crown Royal Maple are flavoured whiskies, and products like Forty Creek Cream, Bailey's, Sortilege and Drambuie are liqueurs. Flavoured whiskies don't even taste like liqueurs, so I'm not sure why either of you just unilaterally decide that they are.

What about Alberta Premium Dark Horse? Is that a liqueur because it has sherry added to it? Or a first-fill sherried scotch that they made sure still had some sherry "swish" left in it before they added the spirit for maturation (which happens)? If not, then what ingredients make it a liqueur rather than a whisky? You see the slippery slope here. Flavoured whiskies are flavoured whiskies, and liqueurs are liqueurs.

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Sure, additives to whisky are legal in Canada, and don't even have to be declared. They are legal in the US too, and elsewhere, if you declare them on the labels.

I'm not too interested in national legal definitions in this case. I don't want any additives in whisk(e)y. I don't want 'flavoured whisky'. I consider Jim Beam's Red Stag to be a 'cocktail in a bottle' and not a whiskey. If it has additives then to me it is not really whisk(e)y. If those additives serve to sweeten the drink, then I think of it as a liqueur.

I've drunk Alberta Premium Dark Horse, and liked it, but I don't really consider it to be whisky. Compass Box Orangerie is delicious, but it is not exactly whisky either.

So, yes, bottom line: I don't consider most Canadian whisky products to be whisky because they have additives. Put another way, I see Canadian whisky to be an entirely separate category of products which has removed itself from world whisky through the widespread use of additives.

When I found my own country I can legally call anything I want to "whisky", but the rest of the world will continue to be free to think that my definition of whisky is full of shit.

5 years ago 0

@talexander
talexander commented

Fair enough! I agree Orangerie is great (and that one is definitely a liqueur) I have to figure out ways to use it in cocktails. Tried it in a Rusty Nail (replacing Drambuie with it) but it was too....orange-y. Maybe I'll try it as part of a Manhattan...

5 years ago 0

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